Tea is appreciated for its good taste and soothing qualities, and innumerable studies have shown its great medicinal value. The health benefits of tea include detoxifying body, weight loss, boosting immunity and mental alertness, preventing heart diseases and arthritis, managing diabetes, and delaying the aging process. It also helps prevent hair loss, fight fatigue, depression, and treat dental issues. Many types of tea have also been linked to lower risks of cancer.
What is Tea?
Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared using the leaves of tea plant scientifically known as Camellia sinensis. It is usually prepared by pouring hot or warm water over the tea leaves. Tea is graded on the basis of flavor and taste, which mainly comes from an alkaloid called tannin. It is also graded on the basis of the size of the leaves, cut, grains, and a few other factors that determine its price on the market. The major types of tea are white tea, green tea, oolong tea, yellow tea, and black tea. The difference between them is the degree to which the leaf is oxidized or fermented.
History of Tea
The book The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide mentions the prevalence of tea in areas like Assam (India), Yunnan (China), Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos during 1122-256 BC.
It is believed that the Chinese were the first to use it as a beverage and discover its medicinal values. They considered it a tonic that could stop aging, promote youth and vitality, and ensuring a long life, which is why only the noble descendants were allowed to drink it and the beverage was kept secret for a long time. After it was introduced to the world, it became an important part of the culture in many countries, played a major role in ceremonies, caused the formation of trade routes, and even started revolutions!
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|Sources include : USDA
Tea is a low-calorie beverage, with only 2 calories per serving with no carbohydrate, protein, or fat. Many of the health benefits of tea are due to flavonoids which act as antioxidants. The most important flavonoids are catechins, specifically epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). It also contains rich phytochemicals called methylxanthines like theophylline, caffeine, and theobromine, which boost metabolism and cause fat burning.
Calories in Tea
A single serving of instant, unsweetened tea prepared with water contains about 1.78 kcal. Most teas that are infused in water contain very few calories. If you choose to add milk to your tea, that’s when the calories will shoot up.
Health Benefits of Tea
Many teas have a lesser amount of caffeine and it helps protect your bones and relieves depression. It also boosts the immune system and aids in weight loss. Let’s discuss all the benefits in detail.
The antioxidants in tea can prevent free radicals (oxidants) from damaging the metabolic, circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems through oxidation. Green or white tea, when supplemented with lemon/lime juice is supposed to be more beneficial in this regard.
The polyphenols in tea boost cell turnover, which reverses signs of skin aging like wrinkles, loss of moisture, photoaging, and roughness. It can also significantly slow down the aging process to help delay the loss of vision, macular degeneration, loosening of muscles, and other conditions induced by aging.
May Have Anticancer Potential
The five most known and consumed types of teas like green tea, black tea, oolong tea, white tea, and pu’erh tea play various roles when it comes to their cancer-preventive properties.
According to a 2015 research, black tea is found to have the ability to induce apoptosis in the human colon cancer cell lines.
Green tea, which is kind of a substitute to water for so many of us who are battling unwanted weight, is researched on for its benefits and Japanese universities have recently found that the ECGC in it helps in cancer prevention.
A 2018 study has focused on the cancer-preventive properties of white tea which may be helpful in formulating novel anticancer therapeutics.
It may not sound normal but as per very recent studies, pu’erh tea has the ability to stifle the cell proliferation process.
Out of 132 studies, 118 studies show a positive correlation between lower chances of cancer and drinking tea. Many studies have proved that tea is rich in polyphenols such as catechins and flavonoids. These polyphenols have antioxidant properties and are effective in preventing the growth of tumors and cancers, particularly of the liver, pancreas, intestines, prostate, brain, kidneys, uterus, breasts, and lungs. Alkaloids like caffeine and tannins in tea also help in inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells.
The recent research draws a link between the consumption of tea and the risk of depression. It was observed that those who consumed three cups daily were far less likely to suffer from depression.
Boosts Mental Health
Tea has polyphenols and caffeine content that helps stimulate the brain and improve focus. An amino acid called L-theanine present in it also increases the alertness of the brain. It also aids in relieving symptoms of various neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
Tea is a great energizer and the alkaloids, tannin, and caffeine present in it are very fast-acting and efficient natural stimulants. Drinking it gives immediate relief from fatigue.
Tea is a stress reliever, gives temporary relief from nervous disorders and induces a good, healthy feeling in the body and mind.
Boosts Immune System
The antioxidants present in tea help strengthen the immune system. Alkaloids in tea are powerful disinfectants and have high antimicrobial, antiviral, and germicidal properties. That is why the beverage helps in relieving fever and preventing infections.
Note: All alkaloids (tannin, caffeine, nicotine, strychnine, etc.) are actually poisons, either mild or harsh, for living cells. If consumed in a concentrated form or in high doses, they can be fatal for humans. However, when consumed in very low dosages, they kill only the germs.
Lower Caffeine Levels
The tannins in tea act as digestive aids. The catechins can kill bacteria in the gut; reduce the risk of issues in the digestive tract (colon and rectum), and excess gas.
Studies have shown that those who regularly drank hot tea had slimmer waists and lower body mass index (BMI) than those who did not. Scientists attribute the weight loss effect to the fact that drinking this beverage regularly can lower the risk of metabolic syndrome and help you keep your weight in check. Drinking a hot brew also reduces the effect of the stress hormone, cortisol, which could contribute to belly fat.
Several studies found that this beverage reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Further studies are required to understand the specific effects of various types of tea.
It stimulates the metabolism, which results in faster breaking down of sugar and lowering of its level in the blood. This way, it releases energy and also helps people with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels.
Prevents Heart Disease
Those who consumed at least three cups a day showed a reduction in the risk of various cardiovascular diseases like coronary heart disease, cardiac death, and stroke.
Reduces Risk of Arthritis
Polyphenols in tea can reduce inflammation, and make it less likely for regular drinkers to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
Improves Eye Health
The flavonoids in the tea protect against eye disease like cataracts, macular degeneration, and certain types of glaucoma. The flavonoid gallocatechin forms a protective layer on the retina to shield it from UV rays.
The polyphenols in tea can boost bone mineral density and make them stronger.
Prevents Blood Clots
Fights the Flu
A study demonstrated that those who gargled with tea solution twice daily had a lower risk of contracting flu virus than those who didn’t.
Prevents Cold and Cough
Tea helps prevent symptoms of the common cold like a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, and sore throat. It also warms and comforts the body during cold seasons. The best part is that the effects are almost immediate.
Prevents Kidney Stones
Drinking tea also helps prevent the formation of kidney stones. Research indicates that the phenol in tea bonds to the calcium oxalate in kidney stones and reduces their tendency to clump together into large, painful stones.
Prevents Iron Damage
Tea acts as a natural sunscreen by protecting us from the damaging effects of UV rays.
Tea can help combat two types of bacteria: Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus, which are associated with tooth decay. Tannin in tea is an alkaloid and has strong astringent properties. The astringent action fastens the gums firmly onto the teeth, preventing them from loosening and falling out. If taken without sugar, it neutralizes excess acids in the mouth and destroys germs.
The catechin content in tea can also keep your skin acne-free. It also protects skin against harmful effects of UV rays.
Uses of Tea
There are many ways to use tea to benefit your beauty, home, and garden:
- Soothe tired eyes: The tannins in tea help in reducing puffiness and dark circles under the eye. The best way to utilize this quality is by using tea bags on the eyes. It also provides you a way to reuse your used tea bags. Once you have used the tea bag for your tea, place it in the fridge for cooling down. Then place the tea bag on the eye for 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure it is damp. For best results, use caffeinated tea bags.
- Darken gray hair: Brew a strong pot of black tea with herbs for hair like rosemary and sage. Use this as a final wash for your hair after you shampoo to enhance color and to darken grey hair.
- Homemade foot soak: Relax your tired feet into a tea bath, which helps to deodorize them and cure fungal infections.
- Cleaning solution: Wipe your floors and mirrors with a cloth dipped in tea for a perfect shine.
- Fertilize plants: Pour a few cups of strong brew into your compost heap to enrich it.
Side Effects of Tea
While most research on tea is positive, like with any other addition to your diet, don’t consume it in excessive amounts. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Addictive quality: This ancient beverage is addictive and makes you habituated to the external stimulant. Therefore, in absence of it, you may feel weak and worn out as your own energy level drops down below normal and you will eventually want more.
- Organ damage: The alkaloids, tannin, and caffeine in tea can have harmful effects in the long run and can even damage the liver and lungs if excessively consumed. This harmful effect can be minimized by adding lemon/lime juice or milk in your tea.
- Appetite-suppressant: It also kills the appetite.
- Interferes with sleep: If consumed in excess or before sleep, it can cause sleeplessness and resultant headaches.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does tea dehydrate you?
Tea is made with water and can seldom affect your hydration levels. Most research studies that have compared the consumption of tea and other caffeinated beverages with water suggest no significant difference. This is applicable to people who drink tea in moderation as caffeine, when consumed in excessive quantities, can have a diuretic effect on your body and lead to frequent urination.
How to store tea properly?
Tea has a delicate flavor, which means that it must be stored carefully. The enemies of tea are light, heat, odor, moisture, and air. When storing tea, it is important that you protect it from all these conditions. The light and sun degrade the tea. Moisture and odor are quickly absorbed by the tea leaves. Air increases the exposure of moisture and odor. So, to ensure optimum flavor and long life, here are some simple measure you must take:
- Store the tea in a dark place in an opaque container.
- Store delicate teas separately from strong teas.
- Use a non-reactive container like metal or non-leaching plastic for storage.
- Make sure the container can be tightly sealed to protect the tea from air, moisture, odor.
- Do not store in a glass container or an open jar.
- Do not keep objects or foods with a strong odor nearby.
- Avoid using natural containers like cloth or wood that can react with the tea.
Does tea expire?
Of late, this question appears in every tea fanatic’s mind. The short answer is: No it does not.
Whether you purchase tea bags or loose leaf tea, the packaging comes with a best before date. This date indicates the longevity of the tea life and for how long it maintains its ideal taste. Once the best before date passes, the tea is still safe to consume, however, you may notice a change in its flavor as it won’t be as strong as it was when first purchased. This happens due to the evaporation of the natural oils and flavors present in the tea.
Does tea have caffeine?
The recommended amount of caffeine per day is 400 mg from all sources added. Tea derived from the camellia sinensis plant contains caffeine. A cup of black tea contains about 48mg caffeine and the same applies for a cup of green tea. Moreover, the amount of time you keep the tea for steeping also affects the amount of caffeine in it. If you are watching your caffeine intake, then you can look for using loose-leaf tea is a great option as it contains lesser caffeine then teabags. Rebrew your cup so that you do not add a new batch of caffeine to your cup. You can look for tea blends as well.
Is tea a diuretic?
Black tea, oolong tea, white tea, and green tea can have a diuretic effect on your body. This may be because of the caffeine content in it. Also, having too much tea can dehydrate you as it stimulates frequent urination.
Is tea good for you?
Having tea is a healthy habit, suggest many Harvard-led studies. Tea helps lower your risk of heart diseases, cancer, and diabetes. Green tea is considered a magic beverage in terms of antioxidant content. Tea also helps to boost your immunity and keep you up and about. Having said that, adding milk and sugar to tea can change the dynamic altogether. Milk adds calories, and sugar, well it just offsets the benefits.
Is tea acidic?
Tea is known to be acidic and alkaline – both. It is important for tea lovers to understand the type of tea to know the acidic level. When the range is between 5.5 and 7, it is mildly acidic. When it is below four, then the tea is very acidic. In addition to the type of tea, the additives and brewing time also play a role to decide the level of acidity present in your tea.